Chapter Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: JKR owns. I only play. You do not sue.
Chapter Summary: Wherein the Malfoy family is changed, Narcissa wants to kick some arse, Draco finally makes up his mind, Harry doesn't want to play games, Andreas Dearborn is still a reporter, and Millicent keeps her mouth shut (as does Lolita).
Concrit: Always welcome and appreciated.
Chapter 29 - After the War
Your father is dead. The words echoed in Draco's mind, dreamlike and insubstantial.
"No, he isn't," he told his mother, blinking. "I was just thinking about him a moment ago."
Draco had never contemplated what his father's funeral should have been like. It was just not something you thought about, your parents dying. It wasn't supposed to happen for a long, long time -- and even then, you didn't want to think about it. Much less stand amidst thick grey swirls of fog, conscious only of the horrid black fortress behind you and the hole in the ground in front of you.
It could have been me, he thought, shivering with the wind as his father's body, wrapped in a crude brown sack, hit the bottom of the grave. The unhelpful guard who'd escorted them here had informed them that caskets for the prisoners were "on order", whatever that meant, and it was against prison regulations to postpone a burial for frivolous reasons.
Most alarmingly of all, Draco realised he found the disgraceful burial more upsetting than he did his father's death itself. He hadn't seen his father or spoken to him for over three years; he'd had no idea that their last conversation had really been their last. It had been a completely random, pointless anecdote about a boy Lucius had known who'd cast the naudiz and fehu runes improperly and ended up with a herd of cattle instead of a sack of gold...
Draco realised he was blinking back tears. He had been so sure that he would see his father again one day that he'd forgotten to miss him. And now it was too late. The pile of frozen earth next to the grave floated up and landed on top of his father. A cold, small hand touched his; Draco wrapped his fingers around his mother's and bit down on the sound in his throat.
"Well, that's that, then," said the guard, and spat on the ground next to the grave. Draco shook silently, and wished his wand hadn't been confiscated at the gates.
Narcissa didn't say a word until they were halfway across the narrow strait to the mainland. "I suppose there is no need for you to continue with the farce of Auror training," she said, her voice as hollow as Draco's heart.
"I suppose not," said Draco, and glanced at the oarsman, who didn't seem to be listening.
Narcissa said nothing more until they reached Malfoy Manor an hour later. As for Draco, he thought about Auror training, and Potter. The shock of learning of his father's death had put their last encounter out of his mind, but now that he was thinking about the future, his mind kept wandering to spending three years in close proximity to Potter. He felt his face colouring as he thought about the things he'd glimpsed in the Pensieve.
Try as he might, Draco could not remember any of it for himself, though he assumed some vestigial remains of the memories still existed somewhere in his mind, otherwise why would his utterly mild attraction to Potter turn into something as unforgivingly potent as what he felt now? And being so close to Potter for three years, he was bound to repeat his mistakes -- how could he not? He'd never been very good at denying himself things he wanted; that was why he'd gone to such lengths to curb his unfortunate attraction to boys.
He had just buried his father, and all he could think about was Harry sodding Potter naked. And with his father gone, so was the biggest reason Draco had kept himself from acting on his shameful impulses. Guilt stung him as he realised what he'd just thought, but he couldn't un-think it. Nor did he feel compelled as compelled to hide those impulses any longer, though he wasn't sure if it was because his father was no longer there or because he'd seen Potter's memories. Perhaps it was both of these things.
What would have happened had I not forgotten? Draco asked himself. What would have I done now?
The answer was stark in its simplicity, but there was still his mother to contend with, pale as a winter morning, her blue eyes frozen in time.
"There's something I must tell you, Mother," he blurted before he even thought of what to say next. "But you must promise not to hate me for it."
Her eyes moved to meet his. "I could never hate you, Draco."
"Not even if I chose a Muggle girl?"
A widening of her eyes, then: "Not even then."
Draco looked down into his lap. Even folded, his hands were shaking. "What if it wasn't a girl?" he said after a long silence.
He looked up at her, expecting shock and outrage, but Narcissa's face remained smooth. "Before peace, there must be war," she said, staring out the window at one of her magnolia trees. A bird capered on one of the branches, singing praises to the sun.
Draco looked at her, uncomprehending. Had the funeral been too much for her to handle?
Narcissa reached underneath her armchair and pulled out a thick tome Draco had seen her with on the day they'd got the news about his father. Wordlessly, she held the book out to him with both hands. Frowning, Draco took it. As he placed it on his lap, it flipped open and the pages fluttered briefly, coming to a stop at a half-filled page, likely the end of a chapter.
After learning what he'd made himself forget, Draco went home and spent hours circling the Manor, wondering what he was going to do. He could hardly deny his feelings -- he wanted to forget them again, but he didn't know how he'd managed to forget everything the first time. He decided to give himself time until morning; that was when he learned of his father's death. He spent the days before the Azkaban funeral in a sort of shocked stupor, but once he was back at home, the troubling thoughts returned, and he was ready to tell his mother (see: NARCISSA, IV) that he wasn't going to fight his unusual inclinations any longer. His mother handed him this History and
His eyes wide, Draco looked up at his mother. There was a thin, world-weary smile on her lips as she waved a hand and the pages moved once more, stopping at another page.
Narcissa wanted to fling herself out of the boat for most of the way across the strait that separated Azkaban's isle from the mainland. She had lost the only man she'd ever loved and she didn't even know how he'd died. The only thing that kept her in the boat was concern for her son (see: DRACO, I), whose confusion was evident to her in every word, every glance. When the two of them returned home, Draco said that he had something to tell her. Narcissa spoke her great-grandfather's motto, which she'd just read in this History a week before (Before peace, there must be war; see ATHANASIUS, III), and handed the book to her son.
"This book--" Draco whispered, staring at his mother.
"--is exactly what you think it is."
"So you know," he said, and looked away again.
"I've known for a long time," she said. "Maybe even before I stumbled across that Pensieve you were hiding things in."
Draco didn't know what Pensieve she was talking about, but he assumed it was one of those things he'd forgotten. "So you would not hate me if I--"
"I could never hate you," Narcissa repeated, her eyes suddenly hard.
Draco could feel that she was not saying everything she wanted to say. He knew she would never accept it fully, but she would not cast him out, would not disown him, would not see him as an abomination. And he could not keep running from himself. Before peace, there must be war.
Draco had fought his war, and lost.
"I want peace," said Draco before the door was even fully open.
"Hello to you too," said Potter. "You couldn't pick a better time?"
Draco looked at him and realised he was wearing jeans and not much else. There was a dark red spot near his collarbone. A love bite. Draco's heart beat violently against his ribs, and then he saw someone stumble across the corridor behind Potter. A young man with vivid-red hair, wearing even less than Potter.
"Get out," someone said. "He's mine." The bile at the back of Draco's throat receded, and then he realised that he had said that. In front of Potter.
The red-haired stranger stared at him for a moment, eyes out of focus, and grinned. "I don't mind sharing," he said, still looking straight at Draco.
"Go upstairs, Tristan," said Potter in a clipped tone.
Tristan pouted girlishly and folded his arms across his freckled chest.
"I said," hissed Potter, "Go upstairs. Wait for me there."
Tristan gave Draco an apologetic look and a drunk smile, and began to climb the stairs. Draco stared after him, not sure why he hadn't yet run as far as he possibly could.
"You can't just come into my house and chase my guests away," said Potter through his teeth. "You--"
"Yes, I can," said Draco with firmness that surprised even him. He'd come here for a reason, and he was not going to turn tail and run. "And you're going to love it," he added, taking a step closer. Why was Potter backing away? He wanted this just as much as Draco did, else why would he have shown Draco all those things in the Pensieve?
Draco had never really kissed another man before -- well, he had, but he didn't remember what it felt like.
It felt like rejection and shame: Potter turned his head sharply to the side and pushed Draco away, scowling.
Now was the time to run, but Draco didn't; he wasn't sure why. "I thought this was what you wanted," he said. The warmth of Potter's body still clung to him even through his robes. His mouth was dry, but his heart was slower now, as dazed as his mind.
"You missed that boat by a few months," said Potter with fury in his eyes. "You spend a year leading me by the nose, then forget everything, then you show up here and try to push me around? You've got to be joking. You don't even remember what it's like, you--"
"At least I never lied to you," Draco broke in.
Potter gaped at him. "And I did?"
"You said you loved me." Stop, Draco's rational mind was screaming. You're pathetic enough as it is.
Potter crossed his arms. "I don't. I never did. How could I love you? You only care about what happens to you. You're a selfish, arrogant prick and I'm glad I'm rid of you."
"It's not going to fuck itself!" Tristan shouted happily, leaning down over a precariously rickety-looking railing.
"Indeed it won't," said Draco, and turned away to leave. He heard the door slam shut behind him, and wondered when he was going to wake up from this horrible nightmare.
"How dare he?" Those were his mother's first words as soon as Draco stepped into her favourite drawing room.
"Not now, Mother," he said, suddenly tired. "I just stopped in to let you know I was--"
"--going to see that Moody fellow," she said, snapping the Black book shut. "You aren't going to let him get away with that, I hope?"
Draco let out a weary sigh. "I'd rather just forget it ever happened," he said truthfully. It was more embarrassing than anything Potter had ever done to him before, but at least he had had the good sense not to do it in front of an audience. The drunken Weasley look-alike notwithstanding.
He looked up Moody's Floo coordinates in the book on the mantelpiece, but he couldn't step out of the fireplace once he got there: metal spikes barred his way.
"Malfoy," said Moody's voice from somewhere ahead. "I don't remember inviting you for tea."
"You didn't," said Draco. "I've come to tell you I'm not going to go through with the Auror examinations."
"And why is that, boy?"
"My reasons are my own," said Draco. "But if you must know, I've simply decided it isn't the right career choice for me at this time." Wonder of wonders, his voice didn't shake. He sounded downright glib and charming.
"Damned shame," said Moody, approaching the fireplace. "You would have done well."
Draco was outside, cursing his beaten old Nimbus for refusing to move, when he heard raised voices.
"Please, Mrs Malfoy, it took me a week to find this place."
"I can arrange for you to forget you've ever found it," snapped Narcissa.
Draco left the broomstick on the ground and walked around the corner to find Potter and his mother glaring at each other in the front courtyard. Narcissa's hands were balled into fists, her nostrils flared with every breath, but aside from that, she looked composed. "You're not setting foot inside my home," she spat.
"That's right," called Draco. "You're not."
Potter turned to him. "Can I talk to you?"
Draco leaned against the wall. His heart was in his throat and his hands were numb. "I don't know. Can you?" When Potter just kept staring at him, Draco turned to his mother. "Please leave us, Mother. This won't take long."
Narcissa cast one last withering look in Potter's direction and walked back inside.
"What's with her?" asked Potter. "I didn't know--"
"Leave my mother out of it," said Draco. "Now, what is it that you want to talk about? The weather is wonderful; yes, I've heard all about Celestina Warbeck's arrest; no, I'm not interested in a subscription to The Annual Quidditch Report. Was there anything else? No? Go on your way, then; if I'm not mistaken, your training starts in less than eight hours."
"Why did you quit?" asked Potter, his eyes still on Draco. "Not on my account, I hope."
"You flatter yourself," said Draco, "if you think I would give up a chance at a lucrative career because of you." It was true, after all. Had his father not died, Draco would have gone for the examinations, passed, and stayed in training, Potter or no Potter.
"So why did you?"
"Not that it's any of your business," said Draco, "but I only wanted to become an Auror so I could have a chance at helping my father get out of Azkaban."
Potter's face turned very white. "Excuse me?"
Oh, it felt good to twist the knife. "You heard me."
There was a challenge in Potter's eyes. "Really. So what happened to change your mind? Did your dad die or something?"
Draco clenched his jaw and wondered if he'd have enough time to leave the country before they arrested him for murdering everyone's favourite hero. "As a matter of fact," he bit out, "He did."
Potter frowned. "He-- your dad's dead?"
"Yes, quite dead, thank you for asking, we buried him last week. Now that I've reassured you that there's one less Death Eater for you to worry about, why don't you run along?" Of course Potter wouldn't have known about it. Who could expect the great and mighty Harry Potter to care about a dead Death Eater? It was Potter who'd put Lucius Malfoy in Azkaban. Potter was the reason Draco's father had died. And Draco had gone to him, like a lovesick puppy, after his father's very funeral. He felt so ashamed.
"You lied the whole time, then," said Potter. "You never really changed. I suppose you still think Muggle-borns all deserve to die."
"Was I supposed to have changed? Why? The magical healing power of your cock? Harry Potter's member, eradicating prejudice wherever it goes!" Draco was getting wound up now; what was Potter after, really?
"You're still a Death Eater, then."
"Since you seem to divide the world into Death Eaters and those who oppose them," said Draco, "by all means."
Potter frowned. "The world's not split into good people and Death Eaters," he said, his tone almost reverent, as though reciting some cherished adage.
"Congratulations, Potter, take five points to Gryffindor for heretofore undiscovered powers of reasoning. Now fuck off."
"That's quite a change from last week," said Potter in a voice so low, Draco barely heard him.
"Nothing happened last week," he said, feeling a chill seize his spine.
Potter looked confused. "Did you forget it all again, then?"
"There's nothing to forget," said Draco.
"You would have failed the character testing," said Potter with just a hint of a smirk. "An Auror can't be a coward," he said. "Or a liar."
Draco pressed his hand to his heart dramatically. "You wound me. See how I suffer, oh, it burns, the shame, I can't take it any more!"
Suddenly, Potter was on him, next to him, pushing him into the cold wall and snarling, "Why do you have to be such a fucking arsehole, Malfoy?"
"You just called me a Death Eater, a coward, and a liar all in the span of five minutes," Draco shot back, groping in his pocket for his wand. "You figure it out, genius." Potter smelled like cheap soap, but his proximity was doing bad things to Draco's privates. It would take some time before he managed to put Potter out of his mind completely. His wand kept eluding him. "Let go of me."
Potter did, with some reluctance, but remained standing far too close for comfort. "Well, I suppose I know the answer to my question," he said.
"Yes, and that means it's time for you to leave."
"Your father was a Death Eater, Malfoy. He supported Voldemort. He--"
"He was my father," said Draco with dignity. "If you had a father, you would understand."
It was amusing that even after all these years, taunting Potter about his dead parents still put that wounded animal look on his face. Draco wanted to laugh, but suddenly remembered that he no longer had a father, either. He found his wand, and he had just enough time to block the hex Potter threw at him in the next instant. They glared at each other, eyes locked, wands out, business as usual. Then Potter turned on his heel and stalked away.
Draco wanted to make sure he left the premises, so he hurried to the basement cubbyhole that housed the Manor's surveillance equipment. The largest Eyelet viewer showed the front gate, which stood open during the daytime. Draco watched the pictures rotate slowly, never changing. Suddenly, his mother appeared next to the gate; she must have Apparated from the drawing room.
"Mother, what are you doing there?" asked Draco, then realised that the voice conduit was closed. He rotated the seashell that opened a communication link between the gate area and the security room, but before he could speak, Potter appeared in the Eyelet viewer. The picture changed, and Potter was no longer in motion. Then Draco heard his mother's voice.
"Since my son first went to school, you have done nothing but hurt him, again and again. I saw him off on the train every year and dreaded how beaten and dejected he would be when I saw him next. But he always went back, he was never afraid of you. He never will be."
"Is there--" Potter began; the Eyelet picture changed to that of a deepening scowl. In the same picture, Narcissa held up a threatening finger.
"He's not afraid of you, so he won't avoid you as much as I'd like him to. So I'm telling you. Stay away from him, or I swear you will regret the day you were born, Harry Potter or not! You've hurt him quite enough."
The picture changed again; Narcissa's hand was back at her side, and Potter's head was bowed. "I don't want to hurt him."
Draco didn't think he'd ever heard Potter use that tone before. Perhaps he might have, when they were still... But it was best not to think about that.
"...Let him be," Narcissa was saying. "I'd tell you never to come back, but I don't need to. It's high time we placed a Fidelius Charm on our home to protect ourselves from the likes of you." The picture showed her pointing to the gate, and in the next shot, Potter was gone. Draco's mother stood by the gate, alone, the expression on her face utterly unreadable.
"You don't have to fight my battles for me, Mother," he murmured into the seashell. "It was quite taken care of before you got there."
"So what's a nice boy like you doing in a grotty place like this?"
Draco looked up from his drink and found himself staring into a pair of deep, dark eyes. The eyes belonged to a nicely shaped face with a square jaw and long nose, framed by chestnut brown hair and attached to a well-muscled body. He'll do. "Honestly," Draco said, "I don't know."
His name was Andreas Dearborn. He was a new staff reporter for the Daily Prophet and he was Draco's first. He didn't count Potter, since he couldn't remember anything he and Potter had done. Besides, Potter wasn't there. He would be at the Compound for the next three years; more than enough time for Draco to forget him completely.
Andreas and Draco maintained a sort-of friendship, with benefits, afterwards, but neither was interested in ridiculous notions such as love and commitment. They went out, they fucked, they politely nodded when they passed each other at the Ministry or in Diagon Alley. Amongst other things, Andreas taught Draco that he need not flaunt who he was in order to be comfortable with it. "It's nobody's business what goes on in your bedroom," Andreas would say, and Draco saw it now, so very clearly: he couldn't believe he hadn't thought of it that way before.
A year and a half after the ugly scene between him and Potter at Malfoy Manor, Draco was meeting Andreas for lunch at the Leaky Cauldron: Apollo's, a much more upscale establishment, was unfortunately closed for a private function. When Draco walked through the door, he had to rub his eyes before he could believe that it was Millicent at one of the tables.
"What are you doing here?" they both asked at the same time.
Millicent laughed. "Some things never change."
Draco pointed at a chair. "Is someone--?"
"No, no, sit," she said. "I was just going to have a quick bite since Neville's still at work."
"Longbottom is working for a living?" asked Draco, incredulous. "Why?"
Millicent shrugged. "Keeps him out of trouble."
"And off the streets, don't forget that," said Draco.
She grinned. "Oh yes. Very important. So what are you doing here?"
Draco realised he'd forgotten all about his lunch date. Just as he turned around, he saw Andreas walking through the door. Draco waved him over. "This is Millicent Bul-- I mean, Longbottom. I might've mentioned her before. Millicent, this is Andreas, my, ah, friend."
"Pleasure," said Andreas. "He only talks about you three or four times a day," he said to Millicent, who rolled her eyes with a muttered, "Oh, right."
"Two at the most," said Draco, and winked. "So, now that you know what I'm doing here, it's your turn."
"Mandatory leave," said Millicent. "They let us go out into the world halfway through training, to see if we're really certain about becoming Aurors."
Us. That implies... Draco shook the thought off. It didn't matter. "Why would you change your mind halfway through training?" he asked.
"Sorry," said Millicent. "That's classified." She chewed on her bottom lip, and added, "Even Neville doesn't know. We've all got spells on us to make sure we don't accidentally say something."
Draco raised his forearms in a pacifying gesture. "No harm in asking. So I suppose you're not allowed to say anything about the training itself, either?"
"Not much," said Millicent. "Except that it's dreadfully boring."
Andreas rose from his chair. "Would you excuse me? I see someone I must speak with."
Draco didn't even watch him walk away. "I'm glad I didn't go, then."
"Why didn't you?" asked Millicent. "And I hope you have a good answer, because I've been waiting a year and a half to ask."
"You mean Potter didn't trumpet it to the whole world?"
Millicent raised an eyebrow. "Harry knows? That's strange."
"Why's that?" asked Draco. He felt a rush of excitement in his belly; there was something there, something about Potter and him, something... God, he was pathetic.
"Harry refuses to acknowledge you exist, basically," said Millicent. "If your name comes up for whatever reason, he leaves the room. Why, just yesterday I was telling Lisa over dinner that I would visit you, and he stormed out. Very strange."
"Well, Potter and I have never liked each other," Draco pointed out. He knew that Millicent had caught him and Potter in the woods once -- the Black book had said as much, but he had no intention of letting on that he remembered it. Because technically speaking, he didn't.
"I suppose not," said Millicent, looking away. "Good old Leaky," she continued in a completely different tone. "The service is as atrocious as ever."
Millicent had told him that the leave would last two weeks, so Draco spent the following two weeks studiously avoiding any and all places where he might run into Potter. That ruled out Skinny Sphinx, Phantom Lounge, and Barrio -- the only three gay-friendly wizarding establishments in the London area. Draco had heard enough about Potter's adventures before the Compound to know that he'd be back at these three, maybe even more than once in the same night. Andreas was determined to catch Potter for an interview, so Draco was left to his own devices.
He went to Hogsmeade, just for old times' sake. He wouldn't find anyone to play with here, but it would be a nice, nostalgic visit, he thought. When he walked into the Three Broomsticks, he nearly tripped over a small child sitting near the doorway, playing with a horse made out of straw. "Sorry," said Draco to the toddler, not sure what else to do. Children made him nervous.
The boy's dark eyes fixed Draco with a stare that seemed strangely familiar. Draco frowned. That tiny mouth, thin lips darker than the rest of him. A prince's mouth. "Oh, dear God," he whispered, realising that he was looking at Zabini's bastard.
"My name is Blaise," said the boy. "Not Deargod. Deargod is the man from the newspaper."
"That's Dearborn," Draco corrected. He was still staring at the child. Did Zabini know? He had gone off to the Netherlands shortly after Millicent's wedding; Draco hadn't spoken to him since.
"Hi there, please don't mind little B, he's just-- oh."
Draco blinked at Lolita, who hadn't changed a bit. "Does his father know?" he asked.
Lolita's eyes flashed. "No. He never will."
Draco nodded. "Fair enough," he said, wondering if Lolita thought she was punishing Zabini somehow. Bastard children were a fact of life; everyone made mistakes sometimes. It was no reason to break up a perfectly well-matched marriage. With a pang, Draco thought that perhaps even his father had had a bastard, or more than one.
He left the pub with a heavy heart and Apparated to The Hanging Man in Newcastle. Andreas, of all people, was sitting at the bar. "What are you doing here?" asked Draco, laughing with unexpected delight. "I thought you'd be riding Potter's arse in London."
"Instead, I'm riding his arse here," said Andreas, and pointed to a table not far away. "Or hoping to."
With a cold, terrible sense of dread, Draco turned and saw Potter at that table, with a group of men he didn't recognise. "Well, don't let me keep you from your work," he said, and leaned forward to give Andreas a kiss. In his peripheral vision, he saw Potter turn to look, but he pretended like he hadn't seen him. He walked out of the bar with his head turned the other way, as though checking out the mostly empty dance floor.
As he decided that his luck must have run out for the evening, Draco suddenly realised where that heaviness had come from, earlier, when he'd fled the Three Broomsticks. He had felt a kinship with Lolita: they both had been tossed aside and left behind.
My, my, you're turning into a bona fide queen already, chided a voice in his head.
You're wrong. Draco squared his shoulders and Apparated to Malfoy Manor. If there was one thing he would never do again, it was wallow in self-pity. Potter was ancient history, and Draco intended to keep it that way.